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SOS from marooned to Mamata

Bypass neighbourhood left without roads

Residents of a Bypass neighbourhood caught in a web of real estate lies and civic lethargy have emailed Mamata Banerjee for help, attaching pictures of dug-up and monsoon-ravaged roads that have made life miserable for them.

The roads of Madurdaha and Hussainpur, extending about 1.5km along the Bypass from Anandapur police station to Calcutta Public School, have been in terrible shape for months.

Residents of the area decided to petition the chief minister, no less, after monsoon rain and digging by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to lay pipes destroyed whatever was left of the roads that lead to scores of standalone highrises and housing complexes.

“The roads have been at their worst over the past five months and the monsoon has damaged them further. They have gone from being difficult to negotiate to no-go zones. The area is almost uninhabitable now,” said Satrajit Sen, producer of films like Bakita Byaktigato and Maach Mishti & More.

He emailed the petition to chief minister Mamata last Saturday “on behalf of 400 residents of the area”.

“Not only have the potholes become larger due to the rain and slush but the risk of motor accidents has increased alarmingly. Walking through these roads is an ordeal now, particularly for the large number of elderly residents and school-going children,” states the petition.

An attachment to the email includes a collage of photographs showing the condition of roads.

The chief minister hadn’t responded to the email till late on Sunday, Sen said.

Some roads in the vicinity of Anandapur police station and off Anandapur Road had been repaired last year after complaints from the residents. But the CMC recently dug up the roads to lay water pipes and apparently didn’t bother restoring them. Broken bricks, stones and mud were piled on the trenches after work was over, leaving the roads in a slushier mess with every spell of rain.

“I have been living in the area for two years. The roads were fine but a couple of months ago they were dug up to lay pipes for water supply from the Dhapa plant. The roads are in a very bad condition since. The major problem is waterlogging, which has now become a mosquito den,” said actor Bhaswar Chatterjee, a resident of the area.

Many like producer Sen are thinking about selling their houses and moving out. “We have been here since 1998 and have watched the area grow without a proper plan. There is no drainage or sewerage in an area now teeming with apartments. We can’t call friends home because there is no place to park cars. They will have to wade through water to come here, which is embarrassing. We are preparing ourselves for the eventuality that we will have to sell our house,” Sen said.

Elderly residents fear walking on the damaged roads and rickshaws plying from Ruby to Anandapur police station have doubled their fare to Rs 25 for a ride.

The area off Madurdaha Main Road is worse off after being dug up because the lanes there hadn’t been repaired even once in the last three years. Loaded trucks carrying construction material had damaged these lanes long before the CMC dug them up to lay pipes.

“I could not go to work on Thursday because all the lanes that lead to the main road from my house were dug up and my car couldn’t have crossed that stretch. I couldn’t take the risk of walking because I have a problem knee,” said Aparna Chatterjee, a teacher in a south Calcutta school.

Residents dread that the crumbling roads are the first of many troubles headed their way. Many have started parking their cars at the nearest convenient spot and walking home.

The email sent to the chief minister blames the CMDA for the condition of the roads in the area, but a senior engineer of the agency said it was the CMC’s responsibility of maintaining roads in the area.

Mayor Sovan Chatterjee blamed unplanned real estate development for the residents’ woes. “The root cause of the plight of the flat owners is the mushrooming of residential complexes across 40,000 acres of marshland at Madurdaha, Hussainpur and Chowbhaga. The promoters have not even formally handed over the land between residential complexes to the CMC to build roads. Hence the civic body need not officially look after the roads. But since the area is within CMC limits, we have proposed schemes for roads, drainage and street lighting under the Calcutta Environment Improvement Project Phase II.”

The implementation of the CEIP Phase II could take several months, sources said.

In August 2013, Metro had highlighted how 15,000 homeowners hadn’t been able to get their properties mutated because the records show that they inhabit water bodies. Water bodies were filled up and sold as plots more than two decades ago, setting the stage for the current construction boom. There are documents declaring the plots free of encumbrances and the building plans have been sanctioned by the CMC, but the flats cannot be mutated in the absence of a valid water body-to-land conversion certificate.